LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- What started as two people selling grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup out of a tent has grown into a full-fledged business.
Tom+Chee has expanded into three brick and mortar stores in Cincinnati and a franchise in Louisville. There are two stores in business, on Bardstown Rd. and Cardinal Blvd., and a third is under construction right now on St. Matthews Ave.
Friday night, the founders of Tom+Chee will pitch their business on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” The season finale episode will air at 9pm.
Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward began their business modestly, by selling grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup to cold ice skaters in Cincinnati’s Fountain Square.
Now they're looking to build their simple idea into an empire. Quackenbush and Ward will be featured on “Shark Tank” where they ask a panel of businessmen and women to invest in their idea. They’re looking to expand their stores in new cities and states, with new franchisees.
Quackenbush says, “Tom+Chee is a family business. Corey and I and our wives, we all emptied our bank accounts, we all quit our jobs to start our cheesy empire.”
That empire that includes Rich Tinsley. He owns the Louisville Tom+Chee franchise with his wife.
Tinsley says he was with his wife and kids in Cincinnati celebrating New Year’s Eve about a year and a half ago when he walked into the Tom+Chee on Court Street. “We just kind of fell in love with the concept and we were looking to do something. It was simple, clean, fun and exciting, and ground floor,” Tinsley said.
He says business in Louisville is great, and the product has been very well received by customers and critics.
“High quality, good tasting, grilled cheese sandwiches,” Tinsley said. “They're wacky and crazy and if you like pizza, we can make you a Pep and Chee. You name it, we can put that taste on a grilled cheese sandwich.”
Ashley Stich was having her first meal at Tom+Chee’s Bardstown Road location Friday. She said, “My dad recommended it. I’ve heard great things. I love grilled cheese so I figured, let's go.”
Neil DeGraide found out about the restaurant when it was featured on another national television show. “I saw it on the Food Network and it was ‘Man vs. Food’ and I literally did what you're supposed to do. I ordered the same exact sandwich he had on the show and it was amazing,” DeGraide said.
Tinsley says the third Tom+Chee location in St. Matthews will be open mid-July. After that store gets established, there are plans to build a fourth store in Louisville.